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A soft green background features two nail polish bottles with "THIS OR THAT?" written above. On the left is a white-capped bottle labeled "Sally Hansen pure." with pale pink regular nail polish. On the right is a black-capped bottle labeled "Sally Hansen Miracle Gel" with pink gel nail polish. "VS" is written in between.

Regular Nail Polish vs Gel Nail Polish – Which is Healthier?

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Our Verdict

When comparing regular nail polish to gel nail polish, we picked the regular.

Why?

This one’s less about what’s in the bottle, and more about what gets done to your hands:

  • Regular nail polish application involves carefully brushing it on.
  • Regular nail polish removal involves wiping with acetone.

…whereas:

  • Gel nail polish application involves deliberately damaging (roughing up) the nail to allow the color coat to adhere, then when the top coat is applied, holding the nails (and thus, the attached fingers) under a UV light to set it. That UV lamp exposure is very bad for the skin.
  • Gel nail polish removal involves soaking in acetone, which is definitely worse than wiping with acetone. Failure to adequately soak it will result in further damage to the nail while trying to get the base coat off the nail that you already deliberately damaged when first applying it.

All in all, regular nail polish isn’t amazing for nail health (healthiest is for nails to be free and naked), but for those of us who like a little bit of color there, regular is a lot better than gel.

Gel nail polish damages the nail itself by necessity, and presents a cumulative skin cancer risk and accelerated aging of the skin, by way of the UV lamp use.

For your interest, here are the specific products that we compared, but the above goes for any of this kind:

Regular nail polish | Gel nail polish

If you’d like to read more about nail health, you might enjoy reading:

The Counterintuitive Dos and Don’ts of Nail Health

Take care!

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